A greasy-spoon cafe on a Camden-grey day.
I was tired, hung-over yet, strangely, quite hungry.
You stood at the counter and ordered a coffee.
Black, no sugar. You sat in the corner. Away.
Your face held a history that I wasn’t part of.
The sadness I felt didn’t make any sense.
Fried egg and bacon, half-eaten, redundant,
lay dead on my plate. I sipped tea in defence
as you noticed me looking. Eyes quickly averted,
too late, I was filigree falling apart,
as you headed toward me in monochrome motion,
your flickering smile an abuse of the heart.
Do I walk or respond? Hell, you’re scrap from the past’.
‘Good to see you’.
Stay calm now. Pretend.
‘You, too. How you doing?’
You have all the power. Don’t hurt me.
It’s started, but how will it end?
You smelled so familiar, of teen-aged nostalgia.
Oppressive and sexy. A déjà vu crime.
Your hair, slightly longer, a family of Ravens,
sat lazy on shoulders I’d thought of as mine.
My mind battled logic with wild insanity,
Run. Don’t look back.
I was mush.
Can you tell?
Do you know? Can you see in my eyes
that I’m gasping and choking still under you spell?
‘It’s been a long time’. Your voice was the same.
And the lips. Oh, the lips and the kisses I knew.
Lips that could lie like a lake in the dessert.
Same lips saying now, with a smile, ‘Missed you’.
‘Yeah?’, I replied, in a desperate bid to stay light.
Indifference is hard when your head’s on the wall.
‘You look good’, you persisted. I held my composure
(I think) though I shrunk to the size of a ball.
‘Thanks’, I shot back with a shrug. Such a diva.
Why now? I was healing and reeling in frogs.
Your face, animated, spoke under my psyche
in faraway words of a lost monologue.
The images sparked, neon dark, unrelenting.
The battered Toyota, head-rushed to the coast.
Writhing fire-naked nights, waking tight
to the memories still fresh in our sweat.
‘How’s your wife?’, and it wasn’t a question
so much as a canvas to paint with your mouth.
‘What choice did I have. She was having a kid’.
You seemed suddenly weak. Were you clawing me in?
‘He got sick last September. Didn’t make it.’
Oh, God! What a punch.
Did I want to know more?
‘I’m sorry’, I said. Well, what else could I say?
Was I sorry? Of course. Very sorry. Who for?
And then shame, in its rectitude, held up a sign.
My pain was pernicious. Your hurting was more.
Do I reach for that tear dripping soft on your cheek?
Do I wipe it or let it fall wet to the floor?
A greasy- spoon cafe on a Camden-grey day.
The past is a murderer needing a rope.
A battered Toyota parked minutes away.
The future, a glorious, hazardous hope.